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How to secure accounting and finance jobs

accounting and finance jobs

How to secure accounting and finance jobs

 
Thinking about getting into accounting and finance? Whether you're a recent graduate or you'd like to change your career, there are many opportunities to explore.
 
Here we discuss how to secure your first accounting and finance job, the type of entry-level positions on offer, the skills and qualifications you'll need, and how your career might progress.
 

Accounting and finance jobs | Job titles

People starting out in accounting and finance jobs tend to secure entry-level positions - unless they have extensive experience within a related industry.
 
The list of entry-level titles is extensive - here are some common titles to look out for when applying for accounting and finance jobs:
 
  • Trainee Accountant
  • Graduate Accountant 
  • Assistant Accountant 
  • Accounts Assistant 
  • Accounts Junior
  • Accounts Trainee
  • Finance Assistant
  • Finance Graduate
  • Audit Junior
  • Audit Associate
  • Accounts Associate
  • Finance Associate
 
Generally, accounting and finance jobs that feature terms like 'graduate', 'trainee', 'junior', 'assistant' or 'associate' are entry-level positions.
 

Accounting and finance jobs | Skills

To secure accounting and finance jobs, you usually need to be able to demonstrate your skills in the following areas:
 

Numeracy 

It will come as no surprise that you'll need strong numeracy skills. In your position, you'll likely be managing large and complex data forms that demand numerical capabilities.
 

Analysis

Strong analytic skills are also highly desirable within accounting and finance jobs. Increasingly, companies are looking for employees who can assess processes and identify ways to improve.
 

Excel

Proficiency in Microsoft Excel is an essential requirement. As an Accountancy and Finance recruitment specialist, I am asked time and time again to ensure candidates have strong Excel skills.
 
Most entry-level accounting and finance jobs will involve using Excel to perform financial and data analysis - at a given moment in your role, you may be expected to deliver complex financial modeling, so a foundational ability in various lookup functions and other data manipulation processes could be an important starting point. 
 
While generally, at this early stage, you will not be required to perform programming or develop macros, you might need these skills in the future. More experienced employees within accounting and finance can often build complex financial models from scratch or perform other advanced Excel queries. 
 

Interpersonal skills

When applying for a graduate role, applicants are usually expected to undergo competency-based assessments. 
 
Chief among them will be assessing data and numeracy skills. 
 
But applicants are also increasingly assessed on their interpersonal skills - qualities like customer service, communication, teamwork and relationship building.
 

Accounting and finance jobs | Initial qualifications 

 Most accounting and finance professionals undertake continuous training and qualifications throughout their careers. 
 
However, when starting out, here are some qualifications that could help you secure accounting and finance jobs.
 

Accounting and Finance degree

As you might expect, having a degree in Accounting and Finance is a popular choice. 
 
Popular courses include:
 
  • Accounting and Finance (BA)
  • Finance and Mathematics (BSc)
  • Banking and Finance (BSc)
  • Accounting plus a business language, including Spanish, German and Chinese.
 

STEM degree

Having an accounting and finance degree is not the only route into the profession. Candidates with STEM degrees - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - are often considered due to their strong numeracy skills.
 

Humanities degree

Further, people with arts and language degrees are often accepted into traineeships - these are generally candidates who can demonstrate strong numeracy and interpersonal skills.
 

Other qualifications

While having a degree is desirable, it is not essential. A formal qualification that demonstrates your aptitude in core numeracy areas can often be sufficient to be accepted onto a traineeship. This could include a Higher, A-Level, HNC or HND qualification in a relevant financial discipline. 
 

Accounting and finance jobs | Career progression
 

Chartership

There are ample opportunities for progression within accounting and finance. Usually, industry professionals work towards membership of a professional accounting body, including:
 
  • ICAS - The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland 
  • ICAEW - Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
  • CIMA - Chartered Institute of Management Accountants 
  • ACCA - Association of Chartered Certified Accountants 
  • CiPFA - The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy  
 
Candidates who become Tax Qualified can gain membership of CIOT - Chartered Institute of Taxation. 
 
When you gain membership status, you can display one of the following designatory letters after your name:
 
  • CA - Chartered Accountant
  • ACA - Associate Chartered Accountant
  • ACMA - Associates of Cost and Management Accountants
  • CGMA - Chartered Global Management Accountant
  • CPFA - Chartered Public Finance Accountant 
  • ACCA - Associate of Chartered Certified Accountants
  • FCCA - Fellowship of Chartered Certified Accountants
 
...and many more. 
 
If you become tax qualified, then you can use the following:
 
  • CTA - Chartered Tax Adviser 
  • ATT - Association of Tax Technicians 
 
This list of qualifications and memberships is not exhaustive - you'll soon become used to a range of acronyms!
 

Qualified by Experience

Some people might not pursue further qualifications and instead opt to gain extensive on-the-job experience - these professionals are Qualified by Experience (QBE). 
 

Specialising

Additionally, other professionals pursue career paths in senior financial operations roles, where they can move into specialised areas like Change Management, Project Management and other project-based roles.
 

Accounting and finance jobs | Final thoughts

To secure your first role in accounting and finance, it's important to know that employers are looking for the value you can add beyond your numeracy and data skills. 
 
Today, much of a qualified accountant's work can be automated - but having legal and regulatory knowledge and people, advisory, and IT skills cannot. 
 
Pay attention to refining your value proposition and interview technique when applying for roles - this can often make a fundamental difference in securing a coveted opportunity.
 

Next steps

Ready to begin your career in accounting and finance? Take a look at the accounting and finance jobs available now.
 

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